Breastmilk Supply: What to do if you notice a decrease

Jan 10, 2019

Two weeks ago, the day we drove back home from our trip to Brawley, my body started feeling achy and cold. I knew a sickness was coming on. The next two days were AWFUL- I was so sick and dehydrated which luckily ended up being a viral thing, lasting about two days. On the third day, I finally felt back to normal … yet my supply seemed to have suffered in the road to recovery. I noticed a change when I woke up with softer boobs…how could my boobs be soft when I just had a full night without feeding Alice? I immediately panicked and feared the worst… it’s GONE.  

I contacted Stephanie Nguyen, who is a friend and owner of Modern Milk (an Arizona mom and baby wellness center) to see if she had any immediate tips on what was going on. Stephanie has been such a great resource for me and to other expecting and new moms in the community; offering educational classes, lactation consultations, and so much more. I really wanted to write a post to not only answer your breastfeeding questions but also offer tips for if or when you may suffer a loss of supply. Stephanie is a registered nurse (RN), Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant- she was the person I saw at two weeks with Vivienne when I was in so much nipple and back pain and not quite sure if I was breastfeeding correctly. The little tips she gave me made all the difference in my journey with Vivienne and has since made me comfortable round 2 with Alice. 

I will be providing some information via Stephanie below, but if you are truly concerned about your supply or believe that your baby is not getting enough, seek out the help of a local IBCLC sooner rather than later. Modern Milk is a great local place to go for this kind of support if you are in Arizona (Scottsdale and Gilbert locations). Determining the cause of the low supply as well as coming up with a customized plan is so important and worth the investment if you can save your milk supply and breastfeeding relationship. 

So, here’s the 411:

  1. First figure out what’s going on that could be causing low supply. Have you been sick? Did you start your period? Did you start any medications that could be causing decreased supply (estrogen containing birth control, cold medication?) Did baby start sleeping through the night? One thing to remember is that as baby gets older, your milk supply will regulate and your breasts will not always feel as full.
  2. The best way to increase your supply is by adding in extra feeding or pumping sessions. If you’re really struggling, a hospital grade rental pump is going to be the option for you. Try adding in a 1 to 2 extra pumping sessions per day. This tells your body that it needs to produce more milk.
  3. You can also try power pumping. This is a one-hour pumping session alternating between pumping and massage. Here is how it works: Pump while massaging your breasts (use a hands-free pumping bra) for 20 minutes. Turn off the pump and just massage for 10 minutes. Turn the pump on and pump while massaging for 10 minutes. Continue to alternate every 10 minutes until you reach an hour. Power pump AM and PM for 2-3 days for the best results.
  4. Add in a lactation supplement. Stephanie suggests supplements that have multiple herbs in one like: Legendary Milk and Mother’s Love.
  5. Add in some lactation food like steel cut oats, lactation cookies, bites, lactation bars (Recommended by Stephanie: Boobie bars) and make sure to drink plenty of water. Other foods to include in your day to day: Fennel seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, brewers, and/or nutritional yeast. The easiest to include daily is oatmeal. Please note: Peppermint is known to decrease supply.

If this doesn’t work for you and you’ve been forced or decided to opt for formula supplementation, Holle and Hippe are two options, imported from Europe. If you are looking for a US Brand, Stephanie suggests per Naturopathic Pediatrician, Dr. Kiera Smialek recommends (although prefers the European brands) Baby’s Only by Nature’s One. They have a soy and a dairy version. For goat milk options, there really isn’t anything in the US for infants. Kabrita is an option but only made for older babies.

Below I am answering some questions about Breastfeeding: 

Did you take any classes on breastfeeding before V? I didn’t take any specific breastfeeding class before Vivienne although Modern Milk does offer this class to local AZ mamas. I just wanted to have my baby and experience it first hand before going any deeper into education. I was very thankful for Stephanie for giving me tips and suggestions for positioning her and myself that really made such an overall difference.  

Natural nip balms, covers, bras, etc.? Oh, the poor nipples. No one can ever quite prepare you for how your nipples will feel the beginning of breastfeeding. It’s rough- BUT… it does pass. For me, the pain lasted about a month with Vivienne and maybe a couple days to a week with Alice. Now, no pain AT ALL. So, if you are in the beginning stages of breastfeeding and can’t quite go on… it DOES get better/easier, but it is so hard. My nipples were so sore and cracked that I ended up getting a RX prescription from Stephanie with Vivienne and ordered it in advance with Alice. I would skip the lansinoh from the hospital as it really just ruined my clothes and didn’t work very well for me and try out a few options below. I haven’t personally used the Erbiviva brand (natural brand) but heard great things from Melissa who used it herself when she had a baby last year. Also, regarding bras. I loved the brands BOOB Design and Ingrid and Isabel for nursing bras. see below for some of my favorite bras and nursing covers that I used with both Vivienne and Alice.

Any reflux issues with any of your girls? No reflux issues for us.

When Alice sleeps through the night, do you pump? I don’t. I usually pump around 9-930pm before her dream feed and then give her a bottle (or nurse her instead). 

How do you keep your supply strong? 

What pump do you use?I use Spectra S2 and have Medela Freestyle but prefer using the Spectra as it works better and doesn’t ever malfunction. 

Has your supply changed since sleeping through the night? Not that I have noticed.

Micro blading and breastfeeding. Do you recommend pumping and dumping after treatment? Yes. I always pump and dump after treatment and have extra milk to use that night. Better to be safe than sorry but Stephanie recently informed me that I do not need to dump.

How often does she eat? Alice eats every 3 hours (7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm).

Did you ever exclusively breastfeed? And if so, why did you stop? I would like to think I exclusively breastfeed now, unless I have somewhere to be during her feeds. Somedays, I don’t pump at all and other days it is a couple times a day. Just truthfully depends on the day for me.  

When do you decide when to breastfeed and pump? I typically feed Alice in the morning around 7am and depending on how my boobs feel, can pump the rest of it when she is done. It’s the same for the evening, sometimes I like to be sure that both boobs are pumped before bed vs. her not taking the other side during the dream feed. Pumping usually occurs when I am unable to breastfeed (appointment or something). 

Do you supplement with formula? We haven’t supplemented with formula. 

Did you get mastitis this time around? Ugh, yes. I got mastitis once during our drive to San Diego. It was awful. Highly recommend contacting your doctor and getting a prescription the moment, you feel it coming on. For me, it was pain in my boob + fever/cold/achiness. 

How long did you wait to introduce the bottle? I waited about 5-6 weeks with Vivienne and 2 weeks with Alice. 

How long do you plan on breastfeeding? I’d like to offer breastmilk until she is 1 if I can. 

What to eat and what not to eat for breastfeeding? See above where Stephanie helped me answer this.

Is there a specific meal plan that you are on? No meal plans.

Have you used the willow pump yet? Thoughts? Ugh, I have the willow pump but unfortunately, I have yet to try it… and not sure I will try it. When I posted about the pump, my friend said it messed up her supply so I truthfully have been nervous ever since to try it. 

Do you pump after a feeding? Only in the morning typically. 

What’s your basic needs for breastfeeding? Truthfully, I could say just your boobs but I know as a first-time mom I really enjoyed having the best latch pillow and all the covers when breastfeeding in public. Now, I’d say you could get 1 cover and call it a day 

Do you take supplements or cookies/tea to increase supply? I have drank mothers milk tea (which Ive noticed recently gave Alice gas so not sure I will do that again) and eat Majka bites that are great for lactation production.

How about wine and breastfeeding? I will drink 1-2 glasses of wine but anything more I will pump and dump. 

Tips for breastfeeding a newborn when you have a toddler running around? I typically will pick up Alice as I am breastfeeding her and will follow V into another room if needed. I try to explain that we have to stay in a room while I feed Alice. Worst case scenario, it’s the time where we open a book or put on a show if needed until Alice is finished eating. You do what you can. 

How many ounces do you pump? Depends on time of day. In the morning, typically 10 ounces or so. 

Where do you store milk when you’re away from home/traveling without baby? I haven’t actually done that before as I’ve always had our kids with me while traveling and breastfeeding. I am actually doing my first solo trip next month, so will update you on that.

Baby wont take a bottle, what do you do? Sometimes a baby is just looking for the RIGHT one. This can get frustrating… but perhaps get a few different options and try them out. I thought it was never going to happen until my husbands cousin recommended the lansinoh momma for Vivienne and she took to it immediately (after denying every other option). I know there are a lot of babies who just want mama, but keep trying! Even if you have to go out of the room (or house). If you still have an issue, I would suggest contacting a specialist. With Alice, we tried the Tommee Tippee Anti colic bottle and she took to it immediately. We also haven’t had any issues with gas.

What do you do when baby is sick? I personally let everything out the window and cater to whatever she needs. Extra cuddles? More waking times? It’s ok. She’s not feeling well and I feel needs me. Once she gets better, we can go back to the schedule. I promise it wont mess them up. 

xoxo, Lola